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THE NEW TEACHING

CHAPTER I

THE NEW TEACHING

BY JOHN ADAMS, M.A., B.Sc., LL.D.

We may not like the popular fashion of tacking on the adjective new to all sorts of words, and speaking of the new theology, the new politics, the new psychology. The more severe among us may even find pleasure in demonstrating that the term when used in these clichés almost never describes anything really fresh ; that the more things appear to differ from their older forms the more they are the same. Still

, the popularity of this use of the adjective must have a cause, and it may be worth our while to see why it affects teaching. Whether there is a new teaching or not may be an open question, but the mere fact that people are talking about it shows that it is at least desired. It is when people are tired of the present form of anything that they begin to talk of a fresh form. True, there is a type of mind

eager for change in itself, merely as change. Some people do not think they are getting on unless they are making obvious changes in the things around them. No doubt progress in the last resort does

that is

B

not

necessarily imply change, but it does not at all follow that this change should be of the dramatic sort that satisfies the popular taste.

Fortunately our profession is safe from the danger of violent change coming from within. Our defect is generally supposed to lie in the opposite direction ; as a body teachers are said to be averse to change. Professionally we are a conservative folk, not given to running after the strange gods of mutation ; we are only too willing to keep on in our old ways. But we are also a profession with a conscience of some sensibility-a sensibility that certainly does diminish with the increase in the proportion of women who enter it. Most of us want to be up to date in our methods, and young teachers are particularly keen to “keep abreast of all the latest educational developments,” if we may borrow the phrase so dear to the heart of the writer of testimonials. They are always on the look out for some new thing, and their early career is sometimes marked by a surprising series of quick changes. The outcome is sometimes a sense of doubt and despondency. Each fresh improvement seems such an advance on what has gone before that by and by the young teacher gets a little frightened at his progress because of the shade into which his present brightness casts his previous work. The disturbing question forces itself upon

If

my past methods are so inferior to my present, may it not be that my present will look contemptible when I have reached a still higher level ? Then comes the doubt : Am I really making progress after all, or am I merely changing without necessarily going forward ?

Take the case of the teacher who at forty-five comes

him :

to the conclusion that his early methods were bad, and that only by gradual steps has he reached one that is, if not quite satisfactory, at least nearly so. It is natural that he should wish to communicate his discovery to those who are now at the stage at which he was when he used inferior methods. Young teachers are apt to get perturbed when such a teacher deals faithfully with them. But what they must realise is that at each stage in his progress

this experienced teacher has had the same impression that he now has about his present and his past professional skill. He has always been just on the point of attaining a method that will be really satisfactory. He never is, but always to be, blest with a vision of technical perfection. In other words, the man is a living and wholesomely developing organism. His methods at any particular stage are quite suitable for him at that stage. He cannot, however, remain permanently satisfied with them, because he is himself advancing. It does not follow that his method at forty-five is absolutely better than his method at twenty-five ; but it is better for him. No doubt it may also be absolutely better, as indeed it should be in these days when methods are intelligently studied, and progressive teachers are willing to learn from each other, and to take advantage of all the help that our educational periodicals now offer. But in any case the method he has developed for himself by intelligent experiment and experience is the best for him.

The young teacher, therefore, need not be oppressed either by his less skilful past or his more skilful future, so long as he is going on developing. Changes of point of view and of method during a teacher's career give evidence of vital force. The man is not

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